Recent Clemson graduate and disability advocate Ashley Fisher helps others overcome challenges
Several years ago, Ashley Fisher discovered her personal motto:
“She believed she could, so she did.” – novelist R.S. Grey.
“I was so glad to find a quote that matches me so well,” said Fisher, who graduated in December from the Master of Real Estate Development program at Clemson. “Now I put it everywhere – in my email and even on my graduation invitations.”
Fisher is known as a young woman with a supremely confident, can-do attitude despite what many would consider a serious handicap: When she was 16 months old, she lost her right arm in a traffic accident.
But Fisher, 24, has not only overcome her early challenges; she’s become an admired advocate for the disabled, with 12,000 Facebook followers and 25,000 YouTube subscribers.
In more than 70 videos, Fisher demonstrates how she successfully navigates life with a physical limitation.
“I show people how I do things every day,” she said. “I show people how I drive, make food, do my hair, change my daughter’s diaper, how I exercise, and how I put up wallpaper in my kitchen.”
Some of her videos have been viewed by more than 100,000 people; one video has racked up more than 1 million views.
She hopes to make a difference in the lives of others.
“There are a lot of people who are new to amputation and it can be a tragic experience,” Fisher said. “To see someone like me who is comfortable and striving and helping others along the way really helps people who are new to physical disability.”
Her social media activities, however, are merely a sideline. Fisher works full-time for The Guess Construction Company, Ltd. in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Fisher, who started working for the company several months before graduation, is a first point of contact for clients, working on site plans and real-estate development.
She’s mostly able to work from her home in Greenville to spend more time with her 6-year-old daughter Abby.
Fisher has no memory of that day in the late 1990s when an accident altered her life’s course.
What she knows has been described to her by family members. A toddler at the time at the time, Fisher was riding in a car driven by a relative who was allegedly intoxicated. Fisher, who had not been strapped into a child’s seat, fell out of the moving vehicle, severely injuring her right arm.
At first, the driver took her home, and only later brought her to the emergency room.
“When we finally went to the hospital, they said I would not be able to use my right arm and it would have to be amputated right below my shoulder,” Fisher said. “I was told all of this because I don’t remember any of it.”
What she does recall is trying to adjust to a series of prosthetic arms when she was 3 and 4.
“I remember being super-excited about it,” she said. “I thought my prosthetic arm was going to actually move. But I didn’t like it because I was getting used to having just one arm.”
She remembers a day in kindergarten that confirmed her feelings about using a prosthesis.
“The teacher introduced me to the class, mentioning my prosthetic arm,” she said. “It was drawing lots and lots of attention and at that point, I said to myself, ‘I don’t want to wear this thing anymore.’ So, I threw it at the top of my closet, and said, ‘I’m just going to keep being me. I’ll keep rockin’ like this,’ and I’ve done it ever since then. I do very well without a prosthesis.”
Around Clemson University, Fisher was known for her unfailing optimism.
“Ashley was an excellent student with a dynamic, positive attitude,” said Robert Benedict, a Clemson professor of practice and former director of the Master of Real Estate Development program.
Fisher loves to defy preconceived notions.
“When people see a person with a disability, they may expect them to be sad, but I’m the exact opposite, a positive and happy person. I have an amazing support system with my family, friends and my daughter. And I find joy in making other people happy.”
Fisher grew up in Greenville, North Carolina. She graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro with a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture.
As she looked around for possible graduate programs, a trusted professor and mentor at the school said, “Go to Clemson.”
“She could see me doing real estate development because everything I was doing for my senior project was geared toward that,” Fisher said. “She graduated from Clemson herself and said the program is really good.”
In 2018, Fisher visited Clemson faculty and staff was immediately attracted to the quality of the program and its supportive environment.
She found an apartment a short distance from her Master of Real Estate Development classes at Greenville ONE, a towering building in the bustling downtown of Greenville, South Carolina. Fisher began the 18-month program in August, 2018.
As a single mother, Fisher’s main concern was finding consistent child care for Abby, who was then 5 years old.
“My professors were very helpful and accommodating,” Fisher said. “They always considered that I had a daughter, and I really appreciated it because sometimes I’d need to bring my daughter to class. I really enjoyed that type of atmosphere, how welcoming they were and how firm everyone was about education.”
The Master of Real Estate Development program, Fisher said, “makes sure you have a well-rounded knowledge of real estate – finances, design, site planning and development in general.”
Fisher enjoys living in Greenville and working from home, but in the future she would like to work for a real-estate development firm in New York, Washington or Houston.
Her ultimate goal, however, is to create her own real-estate development company.
As her favorite quote suggests, she believes she can, so she will.